Unwanted and unloved

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Laura Kington

December 3, 2009

Hinze; Period 7

Weimar Paper

The statement “unwanted and unloved” accurately describes the people’s popular opinion in Germany of the Weimar Republic for the majority of 1918-1933. Germany went through three distinct phases in this time period, and in the first and third of them, Germany was in a ruined state and was “unwanted and unloved” by its people, while in the second there was more effort made for the republic.

The first period began in 1918 and lasted through 1922. After WWI ended, Germany, like many other western countries, went into a period of crisis. It was in this turmoil that Germany became the Weimar Republic, a decision brought to Germany through democracy, but which immediately disappointed its people. Weimar Germany had to negotiate the end of World War I and the Treaty of Versailles, and handled in such a way that the people of Germany felt they were being “stabbed in the back”i by the government. The German people generally did not understand why they had lost the war and were being forced into a recession by the reparations. Social upheaval grew extreme in this time period on both sides of the spectrum. Many citizens leaning left were against the Republic and sought a non-republican state. Though the left was unorganized and confused originally, their three major parties, the SPD, KPD, and USPD, gained major support from the people, and all opposed Weimar’s existenceii. The far right was an even bigger threat, and was united in their anti-democratic beliefs. The right was able to work together to form the coalition DNVP, or German National People’s Party, which in 1920 polled about 15% of the German favoriii. The right was extremist, racist, nationalist, and did not care for the Weimar Republic.

During the above time period, the discontent with Weimar was exhibited through many putsches and crises. In 1920, the Kapp Putsch, an “unsuccessful military revolt against the Republican government”iv, was posed by the Freikorps, an army state-within-a-state, and was not suppressed by the German Republic’s army, or their governmentv. Then, in 1923, the Republic was again challenged by the extreme right in the Munich Beer Hall putsch. While it was reassuring that the Weimar army did not join the right in this effort, it was also disconcerting that Hitler and his followers were punished only slightly for their uprisingvi. Also in 1923 was the Ruhr Crisis, which the government handled through Passive Resistance, ultimately weakening their already struggling economyvii. The crisis, in combination with reparations, a loss of resources, and Germany’s recent experience with total war, led to a hyper inflation never seen before in the modern world. The inflation was thus blamed on the government, and led to further distaste for the republic. There was a general decline in law and order, which made room for the emergence of the Nazis, again showing a decline in supporters for democracyviii. The biggest problem during these years for the Republic was simply a lack of republican supporters. By 1920, less than half of the people of Germany supported any of the democratic parties, causing a loss of the “Weimar Coalition’s” majority. This majority was never gained backix, and the extreme right continued to gain support through these trying times.

From 1923-1929 things were looking up for Germany, and there was less of a backlash, though the majority of Germany was still against the existence of the Republic. Gustav Stresemann, who became Chancellor of Germany in 1923, achieved much in Weimar and gained the Republic a bit of credibility. For the economy, he accepted the Dawes Plan. The Dawes Plan was the first time the Republic’s international issues had received any attention from other nations and resulted in a quicker evacuation by the French from the Ruhr. The Dawes Plan was a short term success for Weimarx. Additionally, Stresemann signed the Locarno Pact, which ultimately improved Germany’s relations with foreign nations, namely Britain, France, and the USA. Perhaps more significantly, Germany was now invited to join the League of Nations, showing further acceptance abroad, and translating into a more favored view at home. Finally, in 1928, Germany signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the Young Plan, which together offered the possibility of international peace and a more lenient German reparation payment schedulexi. Foreign influences wanted the Republic to succeed for their own reasons, but only made slight efforts, and only efforts of self interest.

Though the period between 1924 and 1929 appears to have been better for Germany, popular opinion did still not lean to the Republic, and the statement “unwanted and unloved” still loosely applies here. Though the economy had improved, it was still unstable and built a “false idea of prosperity”xii, and deep social differences still divided the German society. Most significantly, there was still a great deal of division in the political sphere. The main democratic parties still failed to compromise with each other, and there was still a large, active extreme right. The Weimar Republic had developed little as a system and many people recognized thisxiii.

In 1929, what little confidence had been gained for Weimar evaporated amongst the people as the Depression set in, lasting through 1933. Stresemann died in 1929, and the stock market crashed. Germany fell victim to the depression immediately, unable to trade or make money to pay back its massive debt. The depression made it seem as though the Republic and its society was “breaking down uncontrollably”xiv, so many citizens rapidly lost their faith in Weimar once again. Salvation seemed to be found primarily amongst political extremists. This loss of faith translated into the ‘National Opposition’, a united campaign against Weimar. It was forged out of Stresemann’s own Young Planxv, and its main purpose was to punish any minister agreeing to pay reparations and denounce the reparations entirely out of nationalist interest. 1929 was a crucial year for opposition, as the Nazis gained a national standing and Hitler gained contacts and power. During this time period, there was also a serious lapse in sufficient leadership. Muller’s Grand Coalition, formed during the period of moderate stability, finally collapsed due to its own internal divisions in 1930. This disabled Muller’s ability to maintain a majority, and turned the post of chancellor over to Bruning. Bruning really had no faith in the republic, and relied more and more on emergency decree allowed by Article 48. His economic and foreign policies were uneven and sketchy, losing credibility for his ‘democracy’xvi. In the elections of 1930, the votes for the DDP, the main democratic party, declined by five percent, while support for the Nazis grew from under three percent to almost twenty percentxvii. Bruning’s role was taken by Papen in 1932xviii, who was essentially an inexperienced Nationalist. Under his rule, the Nazis became the largest party in Germany, and the democratic parties collapsed horribly, having only about two percent of the votexix.

By 1933, it was clear the Republic was “unwanted and unloved”, and was over for good. Ultimately, the people of Germany voted the Republic out in 1933, and ushered in the rule of the Nazis. The Republic never had widespread support or confidence from the people of Germany, and in this way Weimar Germany was “unwanted and unloved” between 1918 and 1933.

i Baker, Lee. "Weimar Republic." World History: The Modern Era. ABC-CLIO, 2009. Web. , p 1

ii Layton, Geoff. Weimar and the Rise of Nazi Germany. 3rd Edition. London. Hodder, 2005. P. 41.

iii Ibid, p 43

ivThe Weimar Republic and the Third Reich. http://dmorgan.web.wesleyan.edu/materials/weimar.htm. P 1

v Layton, p 47

vi Ibid, p 50

vii Turk, Eleanor L. The History Of Germany > The First World War and the Weimar Republic. Daily Life Premium. ABC-CLIO. 2009. Web. , p 3

viii Turk, p 4

ix The Weimar Republic and the Third Reich, p 1

x Layton, p 88

xi Turk, p 5

xii Layton, p 98

xiii Turk, p 5

xiv Layton, p 125

xv Ibid, p 126

xvi Lee, p 3

xvii Layton, p 128

xviii The Weimar Republic and the Third Reich, p 2

xix Layton, p 139

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